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Nelson Mandela: A True Leader

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Nelson Mandela: A True Leader

South Africa has only recently begun to be able to exercise their democratic rights as intended, freely. Much of this work was due to a brilliant man named Nelson Mandela. Mandela worked hard his entire life to bring freedom and democracy through the African National Congress. European occupiers oppressed South Africa for many decades, but Mandela, through his leadership helped to rid South Africa of apartheid. With all his actions that helped end legal racial segregation and promote equality in South Africa, he is quite possibly the most important figure in the transformation of South Africa into the free nation it is today.

In the early 1900s, European figures ruled Southern Africa. Many conflicts raged in the area, resulting in the formation of new colonies. The Union of South Africa became one of those colonies in 1910 (Johns). There was still a lot of fighting in the state, until the Afrikaner National Party came to power in the 1940s (Stadler). The National Party had finally gained a majority and with their new power, they invented apartheid. Apartheid was a legal system created by this party to show that they had control over the economic and social systems of Europe. This governing body contained mostly European loyal leadership; therefore, the apartheid denied rights to coloured people. Some of the requirements of the apartheid banned interracial marriage, allowed for particularly "white" jobs, and made black South Africans carry passbooks. The passbooks contained fingerprints, photos, and information about the carrier. The main goal was to continue white domination and extend racial separation (Johns). In 1950 and 1952, the NP enacted the Groups Areas Act and Native Laws Amendment Acts respectively. These acts allowed for the legal separation and movement of colored people for government reasons (Johns). Even though Africans knew that the penalties were harsh, these laws helped bring together oppressed Africans together against the "white" government.

Elected in 1940, Dr. A. B. Xuma called for increased involvement of African Youth with the ANC. They formed the African National Congress Youth League in 1944. Nelson Mandela started working with the African National Congress shortly after graduating law school in 1942, and helped form the ANC created Youth League. In Mandela's 1951 speech to the ANCYL, he called for a combined African Nationalism. This nationalism sought to unite all Africans in the struggle for equality rather than exist in many factions (Johns). In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC. In this position, he took a strong stance for nonviolent protest against apartheid. This same year the ANC itself initiated the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws (Johns). Because of the harsh apartheid and economic changes taking place, Mandela more easily gained the support of many Africans (Johns).

Beginning in 1955 Mandela strongly challenged the National Party even more by urging the people the right to participate in the government. However, he knew that any action in order to remove the NP from power would result in arrest. The NP claimed that such actions were treason against the state itself. In a 1957 speech, Mandela stated, "Ð'...we are up against a fascist government which has built up a massive coercive State apparatus to crush democracy in this country and to silence the voice of all those who cry out against the policy of the apartheidÐ'..." (Johns). He called for strong nation-wide opposition to these policies in well-organized non-violent protest. However, he knew that these protests would meet strong oppositions including imprisonment and violence. One thing we learn about Mandela at this point is his amazing resolve. Knowing fully the consequences of his actions, he knew what he was fighting for was right, so he would not back down or let them win. In 1952, Mandela suffered the first, but not final consequence of his actions.

While traveling the country and organizing resistance, police arrested Mandela. The court found that Mandela advised all followers to peaceful protest and to avoid violence at all cost. Consequently, the courts charged Mandela with going against the Suppression of Communism Act, and after serving short jail-time, the courts ordered him to stay silent and not leave Johannesburg for six months ( While in Johannesburg Mandela began a law practice, and continued to work the ANC. The year 1961 saw two major events: The collapse of the Treason Trial and the formation of the Umkhonto we Sizwe.

The National Party led state conducted the Treason Trial, which accused many leaders of the nationalism movement of betrayal to South Africa. The animosities of the trial culminated in the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where armies slaughtered sixty-nine people. Immediately following the massacre the government banned organizations like the ANC, claiming that they were themselves the cause of such violence. The trial collapsed in 1961 because the state was steering towards a republic constitution (Stadler). In 1961 Mandela, along with fourteen hundred delegates called for South Africa to draw a democratic constitution in which all citizens would have a vote, and representation. The All-in African National Action Council decided to create a new branch of resistance to the existing government as well, the Umkhonto we Sizwe. This branch became the armed group, which helped others prepare for an armed struggle. Mandela mandated this in a speech recognizing that non-violent protest was no longer an option:

At the beginning of June 1961, after long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I and some colleagues came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force (

The speech also stated that only when they exhausted all other forms of protest that the idea for formation of violent protest became reasonable. Therefore, Mandela helped form, and became commander-in-chief of the Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Mandela illegally left the country for several months to give talks, and in August 1962, government officials arrested him. Mandela took the responsibilities of his own defense, and after the trial, the judge sentenced him to 5 years in prison. While serving his term the courts convicted Mandela of sabotage and gave him life sentence in prison (Johns). During his



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